07/30/2020

BY KATIE SCHREIBER, MANAGER AND JOE RINEY, ASSOCIATE

Ever play the game of ‘telephone’ before? What starts out as a simple message can so easily get tangled up along the way after each person tries to interpret and repeat what they thought they heard. This tells us one universal truth: communication is utterly important – even if the initial message appears to be “simple” in nature.

When healthcare systems undergo the transition from a legacy Electronic Health Records (EHR) system to a new EHR, it is crucial that communication gaps are managed appropriately so that the staff is best able to understand and utilize the technology to provide the best care for its patients.

While implementing an EHR can be an exciting time, like any project it certainly comes with growing pains. One of these growing pains is bridging the communication gap between the project management and technical side, with the clinical side that functions as the hands, feet, and heart of the system. How can one balance certain differences that exist between the clinical side, who has no time to waste and needs things quick and to-the-point, and the project management side implementing the EHR that focuses on details and may not have the same sense of time urgency?

When healthcare systems undergo the transition from a legacy Electronic Health Records (EHR) system to a new EHR, it is crucial that communication gaps are managed appropriately.

We’ve identified 3 tips to ensure you bridge the communication gap between the clinical staff and the project team implementing an EHR:

Merge the Lingo and Focus on Functionality

When you combine the worlds of healthcare and technology, you are adding hundreds of words, acronyms, and phrases to your dictionary. From the project manager perspective, it is your job to bring the two sides together without creating your own personal Tower of Babel. In other words, forget the buzzwords, technical jargon, and any other words that are beside the point, and may just muddy the waters. The best way to accomplish this goal is to focus on the functionality of the system within the clinical workflow.  For example: let’s say the clinical side and the project side meet to discuss a document scanner. There should be one, simple, point to understand: what kind of documents does this machine scan? The clinical side does not need to know the ins and outs of the scanner, how its powered, or how it collects data. The project side does not need to know what medical conclusions arrive with the new scan. All that matters is the basic understanding and consensus of functionality between both parties.

Once functionality is agreed upon, a helpful way to wrap up new workflow discussions is to ask and allow the clinical side some time at the end to offer their overall thoughts on any pain points they observe from the new processes. For the project team, this can provide valuable information, such as the placement of additional training or support resources. By working together to alleviate these issues and display the EHR benefits, this can ease the tension and worry of the clinical staff.

Understand Each Others Challenges

If there is one phrase you should never say to a nurse, it’s “it will only take a couple of extra minutes.” For a nursing workflow, a couple of extra minutes for each patient can add up to two additional hours on a normal shift, which is valuable time they lose with their patients. By understanding that the clinical workflow is built around the patient experience, you can choose your words more carefully: “While this step may take an extra minute, here are the benefits of the system that will save hours in your day.”

In high stress situations, it is only natural for people to fall back on routines to stabilize. For many nurses, a new EHR means developing a new routine. When dealing with potentially life or death scenarios daily, the idea of disrupting routine can send alarm bells ringing. By thinking through how you present new opportunities and understanding the daily challenges of a health system, you can foster a relationship built on trust between clinical staff and the project management team.

Focus on the Main Goal

The most important focus during an EHR implementation is providing the best possible care for the patients. By creating trust and easing staff worries, a project manager can provide much more than just a new EHR system.

A successful EHR implementation allows for a brighter future with patient care, staff morale, and higher revenue projections. While the Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) and clinical leadership can work with the project team every step of the way, it’s the nurse managers and staff that allow this transition period to function smoothly. By facilitating conversations, leveling with staff and their challenges, and keeping a focus on the best patient care, a hospital system can lead the implementation to success.

Winning The Game of Telephone

As we all know, the odds are typically not in your favor to “win” at the game of telephone. One way or another, the message veers away from the initial intent after numerous people try to remember and recall the saying to the next person. But, when implementing a new EHR system, losing is not an option. Thus, it is prudent for all parties involved in managing the massive technical and operational changes that come along with an implementation to abide by effective communication methods as suggested in the three tips above. When we listen to each other, create trust and understand each other’s challenges, and focus on a unified goal, we succeed and win together!

The most important focus during an EHR implementation is providing the best possible care for the patients. By creating trust and easing staff worries, a project manager can provide much more than just a new EHR system.

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